SAN MIGUEL DE LA TUMBA
by: Gonzalo de Berceo (1180-1246)
- AN Miguel
de la Tumba is a convent vast and wide;
- The sea encircles it around, and groans on every side;
- It is a wild and dangerous place, and many woes betide
- The monks who in that burial place in penitence abide.
- Within those dark monastic walls, amid the ocean flood
- Of pious fasting monks there dwelt a holy brotherhood;
- To the Madonna's glory there an altar high was placed
- And a rich and costly image the sacred altar graced.
- Exalted high upon a throne, the Virgin Mother smiled,
- And as the custom is, she held within her arms the Child;
- The kings and wisemen of the East were kneeling by her side;
- Attended was she like a queen whom God had sanctified.
- Descending low before her face a screen of feathers hung,--
- A moscader or fan for flies, 'tis called in vulgar
- From the feathers of the peacock's wing 'twas fashioned bright
- And glistened like the heaven above when all its stars are
- It chanced that for the people's sins, fell lightning's blasting
- Forth from all four sacred walls the flames consuming broke;
- The sacred robes were all consumed, missal and holy book;
- And hardly with their lives the monks their crumbling walls
- But though the desolating flame raged fearfully and wild,
- It did not reach the Virgin Queen, it did not reach the Child;
- It did not reach the feathery screen before her face that
- Nor injured in a farthing's worth the image or the throne.
- The image it did not consume, it did not burn the screen;
- Even in the value of a hair they were not hurt, I ween;
- Not even the smoke did reach them, nor injure more the shrine
- Than the bishop, hight Don Tello, has been hurt by hand of
--Translated by H. W. Longfellow
POEMS BY GONZALO DE BERCEO
"San Miguel de la Tumba"
is reprinted from Hispanic Anthology: Poems Translated from
the Spanish by English and North American Poets. Ed. Thomas
Walsh. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1920.